Readers of my blog may have noticed my love of science fiction. I loved reading as a child, even if I could not explain the thrill I felt when reading Jules Verne’s or HG Wells’ works.
I recently felt vindicated in my love of the genre, when I read the following comment by Neil Gaiman on The Guardian:
“I was in China in 2007, at the first party-approved science fiction and fantasy convention in Chinese history. And at one point I took a top official aside and asked him Why? SF had been disapproved of for a long time. What had changed?
It’s simple, he told me. The Chinese were brilliant at making things if other people brought them the plans. But they did not innovate and they did not invent. They did not imagine. So they sent a delegation to the US, to Apple, to Microsoft, to Google, and they asked the people there who were inventing the future about themselves. And they found that all of them had read science fiction when they were boys or girls.”
Today, I came across another reason for lovinf sci-fi: a history of books that forecast the future. So, enjoy this delightful infograph I found on io9.com, and then head off to read one of my free sci-fi stories!
I got here…lol.
A interesting information…thanks for sharing.
I love considering how SF has inadvertently played a part in pushing the technological advances of society forward. The way I see it is if I can imagine something then it can probably be created. 🙂 Thanks for sharing the fun chart and links.
That’s pretty much my feeling. First we need to imagine it; then we can build it. Glad you enjoyed the post 🙂
Reblogged this on The Writers' Workshop Blog and commented:
For all you Sci-Fi lovers, this is a fabulous chart, courtesy of Nicholas C. Rossis.
Brilliant chart. I had to reblog that. I wrote about using a fingerprint to activate a phone in my first book six months before the rumours circulated about the iPhone doing it. I swear I just made it up. Seemed logical to me that it was in the offing but I didn’t think it would be so soon. (or my idea was stolen by an iSpy infiltrating WordPress)
Damn those iSpies! Foiled again! 😀
Thanks for the reblog, I appreciate it! 🙂
I should make a chart of all the things “predicted” that DID not turn into fact. It would be even more interesting. At a certain level SF is about telling a good story, often, “prediction” is a sales device, not a true component of what makes a SF novel good or bad.
Hi Joachim, thanks for commenting!
That’s actually a fair argument, but one that can be easily dispelled: things that did not turn into fact, haven’t done so YET. In other words, it’s easy to argue that they may still do so in the future, therefore you simply haven’t waited long enough. 🙂
Having said that, I wholeheartedly agree with you that good writing has nothing to do with the devices and the technology, and everything to do with character development, high stakes and fine pacing.
Well, by that logic I could come up with the most extravagant things ever and be right eventually. So, where’s the art of prediction in SF if anyone can do that by the same logic of wait and see?
I guess in the power of imagination? To me, good prediction in SF has to do with that “why hasn’t anyone done this yet?” feeling you get when you come across a really good idea. Like I had when I first saw a tablet on Start Trek, years before the first iPad.
I get that a lot from books like the Neuromancer, or PK Dick’s work. You are right though; these are simple devices, and not the backbone of the story. For the story to work, it needs more than a fancy “prediction”.
But, that “really good idea” is completely a function of now, looking back in retrospect, not that present. At the present, perhaps another one of the ideas was the “really good idea.” But, we both have pointed out, fancy “prediction” is not a component of what makes the SF good or bad. If that idea is nicely interwoven in to the narrative, characterization, a natural component of a society that creates fascinating social/cultural dynamics, well written, etc — all of that is what’s important. I could care less that I’m reading a novel about 2000 where nothing “predicting” actually came out “true.” These are futures extrapolated (again, a loose word) from the era in which they were written, and things have changed!
That’s an excellent point – and a more general one: in fact, it can be argued that we constantly change our narratives in regards to the past, to fit the present.
Of course. Collective memory of the past is deeply imbued on the present (I’m a historian in real life — hehehe)
Of course. Collective memory of the past is deeply imbued in the present (I’m a historian in real life — hehehe)
That’s a nice quote, I should remember it. 🙂
I guess as a historian you are painfully aware of how revisionist the reporting of history can be, then!
I love SF that actually engages with memory — there isn’t too much out there. Michael Bishop’s Stolen Faces (1977) comes to mind… And, I think Malzberg deals, a metafictional and occasionally obtuse way, with the expectations of SF that never panned out. Two of my fav. SF authors (hence my current guest post series on Bishop).
Could you please post the link? It sounds fascinating!
It reminds me of Dark City, where the real question is, whether it’s our memories that makes us who we are, or there’s something else in the human psyche as well.
Michael Bishop’s Stolen Faces (1977)
And, Malzberg’s most famous novel: Beyond Apollo (1972)
Be warned, I like experimental/literary SF. Tend to eschew space opera etc. So, keep that in mind when looking at my reviews.
Here’s my index of 200+ reviews (some are a few years old, definitely got better at reviewing — hehe).
Awesome, many thanks! 🙂
Thus, your argument makes the “art” of prediction absolutely not a component of SF, SF authors, specialists, or science at all… We are all just as skilled at predicting the future as the next person 😉
I wouldn’t go that far. I mean, a world where the hero walks over to his flying car and takes off, is obviously an SF one. Does that mean you have predicted flying cars? Doubtful; and the impact on the reader will be minimal.
However, Gibson’s depiction of Virtual Reality and the Internet long before these were conceived, was truly astounding. Furthermore, he describes a box where engineers have transferred a dead colleague’s consciousness. This hasn’t been implemented yet, but I fully anticipate it to be realized in the coming decades.
Again, though, I agree completely that none of these made Neuromancer a great story; it was the hero’s struggles that did that.
As to whether SF authors are more attuned to predictions, I guess it depends on who you’re comparing us to. For example, I expect we’ll be more attuned to it than an Amish, but less than an AI MIT professor. 🙂
Reblogged this on Sleepy Book Dragon and commented:
Fascinating information here. First that China has opened it’s doors to the Sci-Fi genre but also how the genre has predicted many things , long before they actually happened.
As Hardison once said to Eliot on the TV program, Leverage, “Age of the geek baby, age of the geek!”
As a self-proclaimed geek, I salute that sentiment! 😀
Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Meet New (to me) Authors Blog and commented:
Sci Fi authors especially seem to have a lot of influence on events and gadgets we all take for granted today – what influences can you suggest authors of other genre may have 😀
Exactly! My entire PhD thesis described an iPad long before Apple invented one. The idea behind it, though, had come from Star Trek. 🙂
And there are numerous other devices, theories and discoveries predicted in Sci – Fi stories,from the very first ones! 🙂
I know it’s not exactly sci-fi but somewhere I saw a list of the James Bond gadgets that went into production and it was pretty long. I think, a lot of the time, writers tap into our common dreams or perhaps, in the case of 1984, nightmares.
I’ll have to look that up for a future post! 🙂
That’s a really cool chart. Never realized how many things were fiction before reality. I’ve heard that statement about the Chinese too. Wonder if that will change in the coming years.
Re. the Chinese, I suspect it will only get worse, as they become more assertive and self-confident. We live in interesting times, I’m afraid (to quote the Chinese curse) 🙂
Yeah. While they are trying to become more creative, we’re trying to turn our people into drones. I was a substitute teacher for 2 years and I heard a lot about how the national system was being made to mimic China. It isn’t pretty.
I had not heard of that; are you sure it was China? Perhaps they meant Hong Kong or Singapore, since these countries usually score particularly high on various educational tests?
Keep in mind that I heard this from several teachers 5 years ago. It could be different now. I was told that China was looking at the American education system (prior to No Child Left Behind) to see what we did differently. They found that we promoted arts and creativity, which is what they want to add into their own system. While China is trying to instill creative/critical thinking into their system, America is phasing it out. We’re more concerned about math scores, science, and ‘paying’ jobs. That’s why art-based programs get dropped so often. People don’t see a ‘need’ for them here while China is supposedly trying to integrate them.
Forgot: This part of it isn’t about the test scores that you see. It’s the focus of the system and the type of person it’s geared too. Academy to make an individual or a factory to make a drone? That seems to be the battle here.
That is a scary thought, and presumably one born out of our financial fears due to the recent crisis. I guess the reasoning behind it goes something like, “let’s train our children to find successful jobs instead of spouting Shakespeare or Plato”. It’s the starving artist stereotype…
Makes sense. There’s a big fear that our kids will grow up to not have anything, so people are pushing for the ‘lucrative’ fields. I’ve seen a few parents with toddlers who try to stop them from using their imagination. One actually panicked when her daughter chose to color a picture instead of do a page of kindergarten math problems. I’m still praying this is a freak event and this woman is not becoming the norm.
You and me both! 🙁